Health, Healing & Hummingbirds

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Enemas for detoxification

Nobody likes the idea of enemas on first hearing about them. Enema advocate Dr Sherry Rogers explains that even she found the idea of enemas quite repellent at first, and was initially determined never to try them herself nor recommend or talk about them to patients or anyone else.


But she was won over by their unique benefits over time and now says that if one is just too squeamish to be interested in learning more about them and trying them (if health allows), then one must not be in very much pain or very ill!


(A personal note from the author: After reading a lot of very impressive information about the health benefits and safety of enemas, I think she has a point, and I must admit that it was this tough attitude of hers that made me bite the bullet and seriously consider this therapy, finally. With M.E. being the devastating disease it is, surely quickly reducing pain levels and some of the symptoms of M.E., improving overall health and long-term outcomes is worth a little bit of mere squeamishness, awkwardness and discomfort. Each day of M.E. is many, many, many times worse than an enema experience could ever be after all!)


Dr Sherry Rogers writes that enemas are one of the best, safest, easiest, quickest and safest techniques to reduce pain, improve liver health and to reduce ‘healing reactions’ and symptoms from detoxification programs. She adds that to pass them up not because one is too ill to do them but because they are unconventional or slightly unpleasant is to put up with needless pain and suffering.


Benefits of enemas include the following: reduced pain levels (in 90% of patients no matter what the cause of the pain), improved circulation and detoxification, removal of parasites, weight loss (due to old waste matter being removed), reduced load on the liver, reduced allergies and a stronger immune system, improved skin, improved bowel movements and a reduction of many other symptoms of various conditions; especially if the condition is caused or exacerbated by an over-acidic or toxic condition in the body.


The coffee enema improves the detoxification capacities of the liver by increasing the activity of a family of enzymes called glutathione S-transferase by as much as 700% above normal, and also improves the detoxification abilities of the gallbladder and the kidneys.



The most common enema: The coffee enema

The most commonly recommended enema is the coffee enema. This has nothing to do with the caffeine content of the coffee making a person feel ‘wired’ and in fact it is important that the coffee in the enema is not absorbed systemically and that the patient remain relaxed.


Patient advocate Mary Laredo explains, in ‘Whole Body Detoxification: The Coffee Enema’ that,


The Gerson Therapy explains that caffeine and palmitates (chemicals in coffee) work synergistically to stimulate and cleanse the liver and blood. Without entering the digestive tract the caffeine is absorbed through the bowel wall, via blood vessels, and makes its way directly to the liver.
   The caffeine exposure causes the liver's portal veins and the bile ducts to expand which increases the release of diluted toxic bile. The enema fluid triggers peristalsis (intestinal muscle contractions) and the efficient removal of wastes from the body. As a result of the enema the liver becomes less congested with debris, which makes room for the filtering process of yet more bodily toxins.
   For nearly nine decades the coffee enema has proven itself to be effective at cleansing and restoring the liver, reducing and eliminating cancerous debris, and relieving severe pain from countless origins. It is yet another tool in the detoxification arsenal that should not be dismissed by anyone determined to prevent disease, reclaim their health or otherwise impede the ill effects of living in a toxic world.



Are enemas appropriate for M.E. patients or other severely ill patients?

This treatment is recommended by Dr Sherry Rogers and is also part of the Gerson cancer therapy. However, this treatment may not be appropriate for those with M.E. which is a disease involving tachycardia, cardiac insufficiency and often, diarrhoea. Contraindications for enema therapy include:

Patients with renal, cardiac or respiratory failure (must get medical advice beforehand)

Hypertension, tachycardia

Patients with renal, cardiac or respiratory insufficiency



For these reasons M.E. patients should always discuss enema therapy with their doctors beforehand. It is also important to start with only very small amounts of water and very small amounts of coffee, until one is sure that this treatment can be safely tolerated. Medical supervision is also essential if more than one enema is taken daily.


An enema program can have significant benefits, particularly if a person is on an FIR sauna or other detoxification program and so should be considered cautiously but also not dismissed out of hand for the reasons stated above.


M.E. patients (and other fragile patients) may become significantly more ill after coffee enemas as they significantly boost liver function. Patients doing daily enemas are advised to increase the amount of coffee in them very slowly in order to avoid a relapse of symptoms. Some patients may wish to focus on other types of enemas and only have coffee enemas once or twice a week.


Enemas can also cause relapse in M.E. purely because of the physical exertion and orthostatic stress involved in setting them up, having them and tidying up afterwards. Patients need to:

1. Hang the enema kit set up, warm up the water, assemble the necessary accessories (lubricant and a clock) and set up towels and cushions on the bathroom floor. This may take 2 – 4 minutes.

2. Expel the enema, while sitting upright on the toilet. This may take 2 – 5 minutes.

3. Clean and tidy away all the items. This may take 1 – 5 minutes.


Thus patients with no assistance need to be well enough to be upright for 5 – 10 minutes, to be able to have an enema without overexerting themselves. Patients who can have a carer do steps 1 and 3 will still need to be well enough to be upright for 2 – 5 minutes. The most overexertion avoiding option is to have a carer do steps 1 and 3, and to modify step 2 so that a bedpan is used instead of a standard toilet. If this still causes overexertion, then enemas are probably best avoided until some improvement in the condition has taken place.


Another problem for M.E. patients wanting to try enemas is the muscle weakness which affects all muscles including those involved in bowel control. Patients with very poor muscle control may not be able to hold in the enemas or able to tell in time when they can no longer hold them in, making enemas inadvisable.



Coffee enema recommendations by experts

Dr Sherry Rogers recommends that a 1 litre coffee enema be prepared daily, and taken in two sessions about 10 minutes apart. She recommends that each enema be held for 10 minutes and contain 2 tablespoons of coffee (giving a total of 4 tablespoons of coffee daily).

Lawrence Wilson recommends a 500 – 750 ml coffee enema once daily, and two or even three times daily when one is going through a healing reaction (to help reduce the symptoms). He recommends that each enema be held for 15 minutes and contain ½ to 4 tablespoons of coffee. Dr Wilson writes that more than 500 – 750 ml is not really necessary, although he does also comment that for very severe illness he recommends patients at least start with a 1 litre enema, if possible.

Kathyrn Alexander, Gerson therapy expert, recommends a 1 litre coffee enema taken up to 4 times daily, each containing 4 tablespoons of coffee and held for 15 minutes.


For best results, Dr Wilson recommends that an enema program be continued for at least a month, and ideally, for a year where illness is severe. He also comments that they should not be necessary for longer than 2 – 5 years.



Types of enema kits

Enema kits consist of a bag or can and silicone or PVC tubing. Clear bags or cans are often recommended as these allow you to see clearly how much water is left in them. Where chemical sensitivities are present a stainless steel can or silicone bag with silicone tubing is the best choice and latex should be avoided. Closed bags are said to be easier to use, while open bags or cans are much easier to clean. Silicon tubing is a better option than PVC, if possible.


The enema kit should hold at least 1 litre of water and one that holds 2 or more litres may be ideal. Enema kits are relatively inexpensive and usually cost between $30 and $70 (AUD / USD / CAD / NZD).



How to prepare and take a coffee enema

These instructions are for a 500 ml coffee enema but may be modified to suit a larger volume or different type of enema.


Note that the first few coffee enemas should contain only 1 teaspoon of coffee. This prevents jitters from poor caffeine tolerance and allows one to determine how much coffee can be comfortably tolerated. Some patients may be fine with 2- 4 tablespoons eventually, while others may only be able to tolerate ½ a tablespoon or less. For the very first enema, keep it really simple and just use pure warm water or pure warm water and a small amount of unrefined sea salt.


1. Buy an enema bag or can with silicon tubing and a can of organic ground coffee (not instant or decaffeinated)

2. Boil 500ml of water and ½ - 2 tablespoons of coffee for 2 minutes OR heat the water and coffee using a coffeemaker OR place the water and ground coffee in a container, stir thoroughly and soak overnight.

3. Cool the liquid until gently warm, or if the liquid is cool, heat it until it is gently warm.

4. Filter the liquid through a fine strainer.

5. Pour the liquid into the clean enema bag and hang it at about waist height.

6. Lie on the floor and insert the lubricated tube into your rectum.

7. Unclamp the hose and let the entire amount flow in (or half the liquid, if you’re doing a 1 litre enema in two sessions) then remove the tube.

8. Rest lying down for 10 – 15 minutes.

9. Expel the water and faeces into the toilet.

10. Repeat, if desired.

11. Wash the enema bag and tube thoroughly with soap and water, towel dry and then hang to dry fully.



Additional enema notes

Set the enema kit up anywhere one can lie down comfortably and be very near to the toilet. This may be in a bedroom, in the bathtub, or on the bathroom floor on some towels. While one should not walk around while holding the enema, it may be possible to walk to a bed to lie down more comfortably after taking the enema lying on the bathroom floor.

The enema bag can be hung on a door handle using a coathanger. Hanging it from somewhere quite high like the shower head may cause the water to be released too fast.

Always have a bowel movement before having an enema so there is room for the water to be held. If necessary drinks lots of water and consume some prunes or other natural laxative.

Use filtered water for enemas. Make sure to boil chlorinated water for 10 minutes before use in an enema if it has not been removed by a filter.

The enema tip can be lightly lubricated using saliva, soap or a small amount of oil such as olive oil. Avoid petroleum based lubricants.

Before inserting the enema tip, make sure to clear any air in the tube by running water through it. Insert the enema tip gently and slowly. It may help to bend forward slightly. Some patients prefer to lie on their backs, with knees drawn towards the chest.

Add the water slowly, and at no more than 250 mls of water every 90 seconds. Turn the water flow off if cramping occurs, and wait until cramping stops before resuming.

Clamp the tubing of, and stop the flow of water into the bowel if there is any sensation of discomfort or fullness. You may need to do this several times. Massaging your lower abdomen during the enema may be helpful.

Longer tubing in the enema kit may allow more room to move and so find a more comfortable resting position.

It may help the water to move around the colon by lying on the right side, left side and back for 5 minutes each while holding the enema water.

If you have trouble holding the enema you may need more practice, also make sure the water is not too hot or cold, or add less coffee to the enema. Never force yourself to retain the enema when you feel you can’t. If the enema can’t be held for long it may be an option to have 2 or 3 short enemas.

It is okay if some water remains inside after going to the toilet after an enema. This may mean you are dehydrated.

Periodically run boiling water, peroxide, or other comparable antimicrobial agent (eg. grape seed extract) through the empty bag to discourage mould growth when not in use. If you use a toxic chemical cleaner to clean the bag, your enema could make you very ill! Using a mouldy or infected bag could also leave you very ill.

Coffee enemas taken at night may interfere with sleep, although some patients take an extra enema in the night to help get back to sleep when woken by a headache etc.

Enema equipment should be used by only one person and not shared.



Other types of enemas

Enemas can be done using just warm water. Adding 1 – 3 drops of essential oils such as peppermint or lavender to the warm water can stimulate peristalsis and immune function. 1 teaspoon of unrefined sea salt can be added to each litre of enema solution to make an electrolyte enema. The Gerson protocol also recommends chamomile tea enemas and castor oil enemas, in addition to coffee enemas.



Side effects from enemas

Hypoglycaemia can occur after enemas so medical advice and supervision is essential in diabetic patients. For most, a small meal after an enema may solve this problem.


It is very important to make sure that mineral intake is adequate before starting an enema program. Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes is also critically important. Patients must be sure to avoid ever becoming dehydrated or low in electrolytes.


Rashes, pimples, boils, acne and abscesses may be a sign that the other detoxification organs such as the liver are really struggling and unable to keep up, therefore shifting some of the burden to the skin. Improving detoxification through daily enemas or FIR sauna use may cause these skin problems to become worse before they get better.


Dr Lawrence Wilson writes,


When done properly, coffee enemas do not cause habituation, constipation or any rectal problems. They will cause some constipation in a few cases, but often this is because the fecal matter is removed daily, so there is less to remove. In 30 years of clinical nutrition practice, I have not seen any significant negative effects of coffee enemas at all. However, observe the following cautions.

     Hemorrhoids, anal or rectal fissures and rectal prolapsed: These conditions, if severe, can make doing coffee enemas a little painful or even impossible. In my experience, mild cases of hemorrhoids are not a problem.

Ralph Moss reports that the US Office of Technology Assessment "cites the case of the two Seattle women who died following excessive enema use. Their deaths were attributed to fluid and electrolyte abnormalities. One took 10 to 12 coffee enemas in a single night and then continued at a rate of one per hour. The other took four daily. As OTA points out, 'in both cases, the enemas were taken much more frequently than is recommended in the Gerson treatment.'"

     As Moss says: "In general, coffee enemas are an important tool for physicians who try to detoxify the body. This is not to say they are a panacea. They certainly require much more research. But coffee enemas are serious business: their potential should be explored by good research - not mined for cheap shots at alternative medicine or derisively dismissed as yet another crackpot fad."


Great videos on how and why to do coffee detox enemas

Further reading

Detoxification Protocols and Coffee Enemas by Lawrence Wilson MD

Detoxify or Die by Dr Sherry Rogers

Pain Free in Six Weeks by Dr Sherry Rogers

Dietary Healing & Detoxification: A simple reference guide for those with chronic degenerative disease or cancer choosing the Gerson Therapy by Kathryn Alexander.

Whole Body Detoxification: The Coffee Enema by Mary Laredo

Healing the Gerson Way: Defeating Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases by C. Gerson and B. Bishop.

The Gerson Therapy: The Amazing Juicing Programme for Cancer and Other Illnesses by Charlotte Gerson and Morton Walker

Coffee Enemas and Liver Detoxification (radio interview) and Using Enemas Safely by Kristina Amelong.

Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life by Cherie Calbom

“Less than 10% of all the chemicals in our environment have even been partially tested for safety.” Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life by Cherie Calbom

Thank you to Caroline Gilliford for editing this paper.